Down the Drain In More Ways Than One
Day 9 & Out



I ate shellfish for the first time when I was 19. It took about three times before the Allergy Lightbulb went on over my head. I'd get a smattering of hives, a loopy/lightheaded feeling, and then finally, after a fateful all-you-can-eat shrimp bingefest at the beach, I got violently ill and threw up. Okay, I get it. I bought some Benadryl and immediately felt better after chugging it right in front of the cashier. No big deal, I didn't even like shrimp that much; I just ordered the all-you-can-eat because it was a really good deal. 

(Which I didn't even get to really capitalize on, as my reaction set in while I was still on my first serving.)

Since I'd only ever tried shrimp, I never thought of it as a proper "shellfish allergy," though, and years later went on to try all the other delicious options out there without a problem. So I assumed it was just shrimp, and then once accidentally consumed an entire plate of eggrolls before noticing they were full of shrimp on my very last bite. I was fine! Okay, allergy outgrown, or maybe it never really existed. Maybe that all-you-can-eat shrimp was just sketchy or something. (Imagine that!)

Which is why the first time I broke out in hives while eating crabs at the beach house I didn't really think too much about them. I'm such a rashy/hive-y person in general that I get them from just touching weird shit or changes in body temperature. And they always go away on their own. 

The second time I broke out in hives while eating crabs I thought they were mosquito bites, because they were so much bigger and itchier than usual. 

You can see where this is going.

I don't eat crabs that often -- unlike shrimp, I love them PASSIONATELY, but they are typically just a beach house indulgence. But this year there was this one crab house offering crabs at REALLY good prices, even the jumbo ones, and was routinely tossing in way more than our actual order. And much like the sketchy boardwalk shrimp, I couldn't resist the siren call of a really good shellfish deal.

I ate whole jumbo crabs four times that week, plus a crab cake for lunch one day. Friday night was probably our biggest binge of the week, as I was bound and determined to overload my system with more crab in a week than it's ever eaten in the past decade combined. 

By Saturday morning, as we frantically packed up the car because OH SHIT checkout time is 10 am not noon CHRIST we do this EVERY YEAR, I was...not feeling well at all. My face looked bloated, my stomach felt queasy and I was weak and unsteady on the stairs. I blamed general eating too much crappy junk food and drinking a lot of sweet cocktails and beer and staying up too late and you know, pretty much everything that typically causes my almost-40-year-old ass to not feel well and yet I insist on doing because it's not a vacation if I don't treat myself like 21-year-old hot garbage the whole time. 

We stopped for lunch on the way home; I was starving but couldn't shake the nausea after the first bite. Jason kept scolding me about scratching my mosquito bites, and I kept arguing that the spot I was scratching didn't even have a bite. I was just having some weird full-body itching sensation going on. I was also lightheaded and dizzy and felt like I was getting a cold because I was suddenly super congested and coughing a bit. After awhile I realized the mysterious itching sensation was giving way to actual hives again. 

The good news is that I felt almost immediately better after I was horrifically, violently ill once we were home. The bad news is that instead of bolting for the nearest bathroom, I made a strategic error and attempted to make it all the way up to our master bathroom and...well, fell a little short of the goalpost. 

So it's been past time for me to get my rashy, reactive self to an allergist for awhile now, and I shall definitely do that. I'm hopeful this isn't going to be a dangerous sort of allergy but more of a HEY YOU SEE THOSE HIVES? THAT MEANS YOU SHOULD STOP NOW, GENIUS. 

Just in case, though, my friend brought me a very thoughtful hostess gift last week:


So yay brb gonna go make a shellfish boil and eat a raw onion while rolling around in dustmites and huff some pollen. I'll be fine!



Ugh, that sucks. My MIL developed a mussel allergy late in life (not a life threatening one, fortunately, but a sad one because of how much she loves them). Also, that is an incredibly generous little gift! I sure hope your allergy doesn't require you to keep an epi-pen around, because boy are those budget-busters.


I'm sorry about the allergy, but I have to say I understand the running to the wrong bathroom thing, and being very mistaken. Sorry about that too.

I got horribly ill at my in-laws, while meeting my new aunt in law and cousin in law, plus my sil and her new boyfriend, plus my mil and fil. We were eating dinner, I was at the back of the dining room, back of the table, when I had to run to be ill. I had to make people move, and instead of using the bathroom a few steps away, I feel like I need to run upstairs and to the bathroom farthest away. Hit the landing and went oops, bad idea. So yeah, sorry you went through that.


Just a reminder - you can ask for "late check out" - we almost always do and they almost always say yes!!!


I thought I had a shellfish allergy once. At the time, I didn't keep a car, relying on public transit to go to work, and on a willing son to take me grocery shopping every week. Willing, because I would take us both out to lunch before shopping, and I'd buy. I almost always ordered shrimp, since I live just a couple miles from one of the east coast's larger shrimping fleets, and our shrimp here is SO GOOD, guys! Then we'd get my groceries, and every week, before I got back home, I'd be deathly ill. After about three months of this - I'm nothing if not quick - I decided it was the shellfish, and next week ordered chicken at lunch, with the same result. Turns out it was my gallbladder, which was not happy with me skipping breakfast in anticipation of a yummy lunch and then eating a large amount with an empty stomach. I'm so glad it wasn't the shellfish, and you have all my sympathy.


Total bummer about your allergy, but glad you finally have it figured out. Somewhat related, have you seen the episode of Broad City called "The Last Supper"? Funny (and absurd) stuff re: Ilana's shellfish allergy.


Definitely see an allergist, though, because those reactions can change fast. (And become life threatening.) Glad you have an epipen in the mean time!


I agree with Em's comment, food allergies can turn dangerous very quickly. My 25 yr old daughter has many food allergies starting from when she was about 4 yrs old and the list has grown considerably as she has grown. Consequently, I have become very well versed on the subject and one of the points countless allergists have made over the years is that every time you continue to consume the food you are allergic to, the reaction can become greater . So what you described as how you were feeling by the end of the week is spot on and could have landed you in anaphylactic shock had there been a next time. Hopefully, shellfish will be your only food allergy, but please carry that epi-pen and Benadryl (liquid is best in emergency, but tablets will do) for accidental ingestion. Good luck!


Man, that's like a sweet $600 worth of hostess gift these days! *rants about Mylan and monopolies*


Amy, ugh, I'm sorry you're dealing with this. I just want to point you to FARE's symptom chart: and say, gently, that I think this qualified as anaphylaxis on multiple counts. Dizziness = a severe symptom; full-body hives/itching = a severe symptom; vomiting = a severe symptom; some of the other things might be mild if you had only one, but several at once = a severe symptom.

I'm still hopeful your allergist will tell you that since this happened after a LOT of crab, you might not be sensitive to trace amounts, or something like that, so avoidance will not be a big deal. Our allergist says some food allergies are dose-dependent (eg, seeds) and some aren't (eg, nuts). I don't know which type shellfish is.

At least until you find out otherwise, I'd keep that Epipen close, and if you have these symptoms again, don't be afraid to use it. I can tell you from experience that no one at the ED will ever say to you, "are you SURE you needed it?" They'll just be glad you didn't take a chance.


My very good friend only presents with shellfish allergy symptoms when she's also had a long day of sun exposure before she eats shrimp. Perhaps that is something to consider as well.


I just want to repeat what the other commenter said about consulting the FARE website. As the sister and mother of people Ruth food allergies, your description sounds like it counts as an anaphylactic reaction. You should have a tennis know epipens or generic with you at all times.
And the FARE food allergy walk is Sunday, September 25 in Rockville. Come walk!

Sue W.

In my quest to find out why I felt like crapola all the time last year, I found out I am allergic to a host of things I love. Cashews, asparagus, cranberries, dairy of any sort, cod, shellfish, gluten, too many others to name. And one GOOD (for me) thing and that is Brussels Sprouts! FINALLY I have an excuse not to eat those nasty things! Nope, can't have them. I'm allergic! I will be watching to see what your test results say. Your friend must really love you to gift you an EpiPen! You need to keep her! ;)


glad you are going to see an allergist and are carrying an epi pen. Our allergist has said that many people think vomitting during an allergic reaction is good because it's getting the food our of your stomach but it's actually a sign of a really serious reaction and probably resulting from your stomach swelling. And that means other organs may in distress too. Good luck and hope you get some good news.


That whole coughing and failing to breathe was my first anaphylaxis attack whole getting an infusion. Thank goodness for hypodermics full of Benadryl. I also am have an epi pen for latex...last time was blisters and scars..lets not see what happens the next time shall we????


My sister has a life-threatening shellfish allergy, her husband has one to tree nuts. DON'T SCREW AROUND WITH ALLERGIES, you're too important to us!!!


I have a shellfish allergy and never even tried anything else. Also know that you probably have an iodine allergy, too. I was having an IVP with dye, and got sooooooooo sick. Swelling in my eyes, throat, etc. Couldn't breathe. Don't think shots will work to get you over a food allergy. At least mine don't. Dr. said there's just too much of it when you are eating it. Good luck.


If you're a genius like me you might forget you 'can't' eat the thing you already rarely eat. My last episode was almost identical to yours: I don't eat crab often and was in the west of Ireland where there was loads of crab and otherwise not a lot of fresh food, I forgot I was allergic and ate it DAILY, I started swelling/itching and only three days later the penny dropped. You may still be able to eat bivalves even if you can't eat crustacea. I have no reaction to clams, scallops etc.


You should wear old makeup while you're at it. :)


I need an update on the allergy situation :)


As a new allergy mom OMG you should have used an epi SO MANY TIMES already.

I get it though. I ate shrimp most of my young life and a few years ago at a late night at work, I was indulging in a my-boss-paid-for-this fancy shrimp and grits thing and I was sick the whole rest of the night - what I know now was low blood pressure and GI issues. Took me four or five more times to figure out it was shrimp - but I'd been eating it my whole damn life! Ugh. Still haven't seen an allergist myself but I don't get near the stuff anymore. Past reactions DO NOT PREDICT future reactions. Don't get brave, Amy!

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